KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTS: Hungarian Prime Minister Victor Orban cancelled plans to attend the Germany-Hungary tie at Euro 2020 to sidestep the ‘rainbow lights’ issue.
Munich Mayor Deiter Reiter and the city council had wanted to light up the Allianz Arena stadium in rainbow colours in protest against Hungary’s anti-LGBT law which, he said, banned gay people from appearing in educational materials in schools or messages that promote gender change for under 18s.
European federation UEFA denied the rainbow lighting request because it was considered a specifically political move.
Orban then decided to stay away, according to German news agency DPA.
He called on German politicians to accept the UEFA decision, saying: “Whether the Munich football stadium or another European stadium is lit in rainbow colors is not a state decision.
“In communist Hungary, homosexual people were persecuted. Today, the state not only guarantees the rights of homosexuals, but actively protects them.”
Hungary’s new law is ostensibly designed to crack down on paedophilia but critics have claimed that amendments add an unwarranted link between homosexuality and the abuse of minors.
UEFA, trying to clarify its own decision, said: ‘Some people have interpreted UEFA’s decision to turn down the city of Munich’s request to illuminate the Munich stadium in rainbow colours for a Euro 2020 match as “political”.
‘On the contrary, the request itself was political, linked to the Hungarian football team’s presence in the stadium for this evening’s match with Germany.
‘For UEFA, the rainbow is now a political symbol, but a sign of our firm commitment to a more diverse and inclusive society.’
Reiter responded: “I find it shameful that UEFA forbids us to send a message here in Munich for tolerance, respect and solidarity with the LGBTQI+ community.
“I am also very disappointed that the DFB (the German football federation), despite the unbelievably clear positioning here in Munich, has not achieved anything.”
German player Mats Hummels turned up for a pre-match press conference wearing a multi-coloured shirt branded with the slogan ‘love unites’ and spoke of the positive impact sportsmen and women can make on society.
Coach Joachim Low had said he would have been ‘happy if the stadium was illuminated in rainbow colours’ and that it was important not only to provide ‘symbols’, but also to ‘live with these values’.
Captain Manuel Neuer wears a rainbow armband, which briefly sparked a disciplinary investigation by UEFA before they back-tracked.
Owners of other stadia in Germany have decided to light their venues in rainbow colours, in sympathy, at kickoff time in Munich. These includes stadia in Berlin, Frankfurt and Cologne.